The Ultimate Guide To Having A Sustainable Christmas

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Christmas, along with Autumn is one of my favourite times of the year. I love making our home look all festive, I love all of the Winter cooking and I love having all of our friends & family over for food & drinks. 


What I don’t love about Christmas is the amount of waste that is created every year! One UK waste company estimates that we produce 30 per cent more waste during the festive period and we send over 100 million bags of waste to landfill!  

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When you’re thinking about how to have a more sustainable Christmas this year it’s always helpful to refer back to the 9 Rs


Rethink, Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Regift, Repair, Rent, Recycle and Rot


Below I’ve included lots of different ways that you can have a more sustainable Christmas this year, broken down into sections. Including some ‘top tips’ from other eco bloggers!

sustainable Christmas gifts

Sustainable Christmas Gifts 


Give Them An Experience


Experience gift-giving has become increasingly popular over the last few years. Personally, it’s my favourite type of gift to give. I’m all for less stuff, more life!


The good news is that there are so many options to choose from these days.  


You’ve got your more ‘traditional’ experience days like… 


  • Spa Days
  • Food & Drink 
  • Learning A New Skill
  • Track Days 


Or you could opt for something more adventurous like…


  • Panic Rooms
  • Zoombie Experiences
  • Indoor Skydiving
  • Zip Lining 


The experience days don’t have to cost a lot of money and there are always great deals to be had if you do a bit of research. 


“Collect memories, not things!”

"My biggest sustainable Christmas tip is not to buy material presents! We have too much ‘stuff’ so why not buy experiences instead of things? Moments will be remembered long after the material gifts have been unwrapped and forgotten."

Plant a Tree Gift


If you’re not keen on experience gift giving then why not plant a tree for your loved ones? There are lots of companies out there that offer this service including The National Forest, Trees For Life and the Woodland Trust.

Plant a tree gift for Christmas

Sustainable Christmas Gifts 


If you are the type of person that likes to give a physical gift then try to opt for a gift that is Fairtrade, ethical and sustainable. 


Here’s a few ideas for you…


  • Potted Plants 
  • Wildflower Seeds For The Garden
  • Zero Waste Items For The Home 
  • Fairtrade Fashion Accessories 
  • Organic & Vegan Beauty Products in Zero Waste Packaging
  • Homemade Food Gifts in Reused Jars 


Check out my post Zero Waste Gift Guide for more ideas!

"Support small business. Buy from people you know, go to a local craft fair or Christmas market, or even shop online at Etsy. If you’re buying in person, you can let them know they don’t need to package it up for you. Have your reusable bags on hand! With Etsy, you can message the seller beforehand and ask if it’s possible to ship without plastic. Not only does this avoid plastic packaging, but it spreads the word to sellers that consumers don’t want plastic packaging. Win, win!"
sustainable Christmas wrapping

Sustainable Christmas Wrapping


Did you know that the majority of wrapping paper cannot be recycled? That means it gets used once and then has to go into your bin which ultimately ends up in landfill or being incinerated. 


In the UK, we use an estimated 227,000 miles of wrapping paper each year! Over 83km2 of that will end up in the bin. That’s a lot of waste! 


Below are some more sustainable options for you to try out this year. 

Reusable Cloth Wrapping


Wrapping your gifts in reusable cloth is set to be a popular trend this year. Not only does it look great but it’s also zero waste as the cloth can be reused again and again. You can either use twine to tie the packages or try out the Furoshiki method which I love! 




Furoshiki is a traditional Japanese wrapping cloth, used for transporting gifts, clothes and other items. The Furoshikik wrapping method is really simple to do and the gifts look lovely. This is the method I use to wrap all of our gifts. 


You can buy traditional Furoshikik wrap but it’s quite expensive. A cheaper option is to use offcuts of material or scarves that you can get in charity shops. I got all of our wraps from our local scrap store. 


If you’re not familiar with the wrapping method then you can find lots of tutorials online.


Brown Paper & Christmas Stamps 


If you don’t fancy using material then brown paper with Christmas stamps could be a good option for you. You can decorate the gifts with natural elements like sprigs of holly, dried oranges and pine cones. Best of all you can get the trimmings for free by simply going for a walk in your local woods.

Recyclable Wrapping Paper 


If none of the above appeals to you then the next best thing is to buy wrapping paper that has been *made from recyclable materials and can be recycled after use. 


If you’re not sure whether your wrapping paper can be recycled or not try the ‘scrunch test’. Scrunch up the wrapping paper, if the paper remains scrunched it can be recycled. If it unfolds itself it has to go to landfill.

"Ditch the car when viewing Christmas lights this year - walk instead. It's a nice family activity that gives you more time to look at each house, a bit of exercise, and some time out in the community, all while reducing your carbon footprint. If you have too far to go, try to find a central spot to park and walk from there!"
Sustainable Christmas Tree

Sustainable Christmas Trees 

In the UK it’s estimated that we use around 8 million natural trees every year!

Rent A Living Christmas Tree 


Did you know that you can hire a real Christmas tree during the festive period? You simply pick your tree, the company then delivers the tree to you on the beginning of December. They then come and pick it up again in the New Year and replant it on their farm ready for next year. 


A friend of mine recently looked into this and the prices are actually really good. I’d say it’s on par with the cost of buying a real Christmas tree but with the added benefit of the tree being replanted after use for next year.

Buy A Real Tree 

Most councils now take away your real Christmas trees for recycling. They are generally shredded down into chippings which can be used elsewhere. Take a look on your local authority website for more information about pick up points and collection dates. 

One thing you do have to consider however is that when a real tree rots it emits a lot of greenhouse gas emissions, which gives it quite a high carbon footprint. It’s estimated that the 7 million trees that end up in landfill in the UK alone emit as much as 100,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases when they go to landfill. That’s why if you do have the option to rent a living tree in your area I’d highly recommend doing that over buying a real tree. 

Reuse The Artificial Tree That You Already Have 


Going back to the 9 R’s, if you already have an artificial tree then the best thing to do is reuse that tree until it’s no longer usable. When it does come to the end of its life dispose of it in the correct way and then consider one of the options above. 


It’s worth noting that artificial trees cannot be recycled as they’re made from a mix of different materials.

Buy A Secondhand Artifical Christmas Tree


If none of the above options suits you and you still want an artificial tree then consider buying a second-hand one instead of a new one. That way at least a product that has already been made is being reused. You may even be able to get one for free if you take a look on websites such as Freecycle.

Sustainable Christmas Decorations

Sustainable Christmas Decorations 


Reuse What You Already Have


The most sustainable way to decorate this Christmas is to use what you already have! I know it can be tempting to buy new decorations each year but if you already have some try to just stick to what you’ve got.  If something is looking a bit tired could you revamp it somehow? 


Although it pains me to say it as I’m a huge glitter and anything sparkling fan ( I blame that on my Jewish heritage) try to opt for Christmas decorations without glitter on them. Glitter is plastic and when the decorations shed, which they do all the time, you are releasing tiny microplastic into our environment.

homemade Christmas decorations

Make Your Own Decorations


If you’re the crafty type then why not make your own Christmas decorations? Gather up some bits from nature and get creative. 


Below are some DIY natural Christmas decoration tutorials that you might like…


DIY: Pinecone Wreath 

Coastal Branch Christmas Tree

DIY: Simple Dried Orange Garland

How To Weave A Simple Twig Star

Homemade Christmas Ornaments 


Sustainable Christmas Cards

Sustainable Christmas Cards 

Between January – December 2017 close to 100 million single Christmas cards were sold in the UK alone, making the total for the Christmas card sales one billion cards sold in the UK. In addition to that, an estimated 900 million Christmas cards were sold in multipack boxes.

Stop Giving Out Cards


The most sustainable thing to do this year is to not give cards at all. Although, I know that won’t appeal to everyone. 


Send Christmas eCards


If you have the email address for your friends and family then why not send out Christmas eCards this year? You can use a free graphic design programme like Canva to create your cards.

Buy Plantable Christmas Cards


Did you know that *plantable cards were a thing? When the recipient has finished with their card they simply plant them in a pot and something beautiful will grow in it’s place. 


Buy Recycled Cards 


Personally, I stopped giving out cards a few years ago although the kiddies do still give out cards to their friends every year. For those cards, we buy *recycled Christmas cards that don’t contain glitter. The good news is there are lots out there these days so certainly worth shopping around.

eco christmas cards

Keep Your Cards For Next Year


Rather than throwing away or recycling any cards, you receive this year why not keep them to make your own cards or gift tags next year? 


Or why not exchange the same card with a particular friend each year? Just keep resigning it and see how long you can keep that one card going. 

Related Post: Thrifty Christmas Name Tags

Recycle Your Christmas Cards 


Most councils now accept Christmas cards in your paper kerbside recycling collections although do check on your local council website first. It’s worth noting though that they can’t recycle cards with embellishments on them such as glitter or ribbons. You’ll need to pull those off first. Top tip: Don’t throw those bits away, keep them to reuse on your gifts or cards next year.  


During the festive period, a lot of the big chain supermarkets set up Christmas card recycling stations in store so keep your eye out for those too. 

Sustainable Christmas Food

Sustainable Christmas Food


According to Unilever, in 2014 over 4.2 million Christmas lunches were thrown away in the UK. 

Reduce The Amount Of Food You Buy 


The best way to tackle food waste this Christmas is to only buy what you need in the first place. Don’t be tempted by the ‘latest offers’ in the shops. Make a list of exactly what you need and stick to it. 


Buy Local & In Season


If you can try to buy all of your produce from local suppliers. That way not only are you supporting a local business but your food will have less of a travel footprint. 


Also, try to buy and use food that’s in season like…


  • Apples
  • Beetroot
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Cabbage
  • Cranberry
  • Dates
  • Kale
  • Leek
  • Parsnips
  • Pumpkin 
  • Spring Onion 
  • Swede 
  • Sweet Potato
  • Turnip

Use Up All Of You Leftovers 


Christmas leftovers don’t have to stop at turkey sandwiches. There are loads of things you can do with a leftover roast including roast soup and bubble and squeak. Check out these great Christmas leftover recipes below… 


Next Level Turkey & Ham Pie

Christmas Leftovers Pasta Bake


It’s certainly worth investing in some decent reusable food containers for storing your leftovers or even better-using containers that you already have. Like for example, the plastic containers you get your Chinese takeaway in.

Plant-Based Christmas Lunch


If you really want to lower your carbon footprint this Christmas you could attempt to have a plant-based Christmas lunch this year. There are so many great recipes out there these days. My favourite by far is the Christmas lunch in the *Bish Bash Bosh cookbook. The recipes include Ultimate nut roast, Brussels Sprouts with Maple Mushrooms, Bangers in Blankets and a Notella Christmas Tree.


How lovely does that Christmas feast look?!

plant based Christmas lunch
Sustainable Christmas Reuse

Switch To Reusables


Looking back at the 9 R’s try to reuse things as much as possible this year. 

Use Reusable Christmas Crackers 


In the UK alone it’s estimated that 100 million crackers are pulled over the festive period. 


Did you know that reusable Christmas crackers are a thing? We’ve used them in our home for a few years now and I’d never go back to disposable ones now. By investing in a decent set of reusable crackers not only will you save money but you’ll also be reducing your Christmas waste even further. 


Check out this blog post for ideas on what to put inside your reusable crackers.

Reusable Christmas Crackers

Use Reusable Tableware


Try not to be tempted by single use tableware items. Use reusable napkins, reusable plates, reusable glasses etc. You don’t need to go out and buy Christmas related items just use what you already have in your kitchen. 


Have you got my free sustainable Christmas checklist yet? Subscribe to my mailing list today and get access to my free resources. 

Most Importantly Make Christmas About The Experience! 


The most sustainable thing you can do this Christmas is to make it about the experience rather than the stuff. My favourite part of Christmas by far is everyone being together just spending time in each others company. Which is something that doesn’t require any fancy things or expensive gifts.  


Play games together, do Christmas karaokee, create a Christmas treasure hunt for the kiddies, wrap up warm and go for a crisp Winter walk together. The things don’t have to cost money or require you to buy yet more stuff!


This year why not have a simple Christmas? Not only will it mean less stress for you but it will also mean less waste and saves you money.

About Gina Caro

Gina is a content creator and award-winning blogger. Her aim is to help you live a more sustainable & simple life.  Her blog covers zero waste, minimalism, wellbeing & thrift. She currently lives in Cornwall with her partner, two kids and Charles the dog. 

Georgina Caro Gypsy Soul
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